one day in Reykjavík Iceland

How to Spend One Day in Reykjavik

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Written for 24 Hour City Guides by Tegan & Alex

Overview

  

When

   

    

   

 

  

 

Top Tip
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The period immediately preceding sunrise and just after sunset in winter is a photographer’s dream – perfect lighting for photos and a gorgeous, ethereal glow that you’ll never forget.

Travel

Reykjavik Keflavik Airport is the largest airport in Iceland and the country’s main hub for international transportation. It lies 50km from the city of Reykjavik.

Those travelling to Europe or Scandinavia from the United States may find themselves having a layover in Iceland, giving you 1 day in Reykjavik, just enough time to explore this atmospheric and cool city.

You have several options to get into Reykjavik city centre from the airport;

  • Transfer – the quickest and most convenient option, you can book in advance with Intui Travel.
  • Taxi – grab a cab, which will cost you around €200 and take about 40 to 45 minutes. Uber is currently illegal in Iceland.
  • Bus – The public transport Straeto bus is the cheapest option but the journey can be long and timings inflexible.
  • Bus transfers – there are a number of companies operating coach transfers from the airport to Reykjavik city. Flybus operates a service 35-40 minutes after each arrival and will get you to the BSI bus terminal in the city in around 45 minutes. From here its a fifteen minute walk to our recommended hotels. Perhaps a better option if you want to be dropped at your hotel is the KEF City Bus transfer, which operates as frequently and for a similar price.

in this post

What to do in Reykjavik for a day? Find all the top spots here
One day in Reykjavik Iceland
24hrs in Reykjavik

Stay

 Sand Hotel 

Overlooking Parliament (or Austurvollur) Square is the historic Hotel Borga great place to lay your head if you’re spending 24 hours in Reykjavik. With a basement spa, beautifully designed rooms full of fancy mod-cons (think bluetooth speakers, B&O televisions and Nespresso machines) and an Art Deco aura, this is cool decadence at its best.

See & Do

Our Reykjavik one day itinerary is an easy meander around the top sights of this compact and walkable city. There is a great atmosphere in this happy and friendly country, best experienced by stopping for a coffee and chatting with locals – although not an attraction, it’s one of the best things to do in Reykjavik.

Morning

Visit Hallgrímskirkja Church

 was designed by Guðjón Samúelsson, who used the Icelandic environment to inspire and influence his vision of the church being at one with nature, depicted in the design as lava cooling into basalt rock.

Climb the 73m tower for stunning views of Reykjavik city and harbour, Mount Esja and the legendary Snæfellsjökull glacier to the north and the mountain range of the Reykjanes peninsula to the southwest.

 lived around 970 –1020 and was a Norse explorer from Iceland. It is thought that he was first known European to have landed in continental North America, approximately half a millennium before Christopher Columbus.

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Right by the church is the Einar Jonsson Sculpture Park, which is free and worth a quick visit.

Hallgrímskirkja Church, one of the first things to see in Reykjavik in one day
Hallgrimskirkja Church | Photo by badahos for Getty Images

Wander Laugavegur Street

  

What to do in Reykjavik? Wander Laugavegur, the main shopping street
Down town Reykjavik | Photo by Peter Horrox for Getty Images

Afternoon

Take a Walking Tour

Joining a walking tour is an easy way to visit all of Reykjavik’s main must see attractions in an afternoon (or morning, depending on your schedule). A walking tour is an excellent way to ensure you don’t miss anything if you want to experience Reykjavik in one day, and it is frankly an absolute godsend to not have to navigate around by yourself if you’ve just gotten off a plane and are feeling a bit jet lagged! Most of the walking tours in Reykjavik will cover the following sights;

Check Out the Old Harbour

 A service harbour until recently, growing tourism has pushed the harbour, and the neighbouring Grandi area, towards gentrification. Now, alongside the puffin viewing and whale watching trips which depart from the pier, you’ll find art galleries, museums and a plethora of eateries and shops, as well as spectacular uncluttered views of the surrounding mountains. 

See the harbour if you're visiting Reykjavik in a day
Reykjavik harbour | Photo by Erik Kunddahl for Getty Images

Take A Sunset Photos

Take a photo of the Sun Voyager on your 1 day itinerary Reykjavik
The Sun Voyager at dusk | Photo by Richard Gosney for Getty Images

Evening

Go for a Dip at Laugardalslaug

   

    

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Hunt the Northern Lights

  

One day in Reykjavik what to do? Hunt the Northern Lights
Northern Lights at Kleifarvatn Lake | Photo by golfer2015 for Getty Images
Other Scandinavian City Guides

Eat

 

      

       

   

      

Our Top Five Reykjavik Tips​

  1.    
  2.      
  3.      
  4.       
  5.    – languishing in a cell is definitely not the best way to spend 24 hours in Iceland.

Do you have just a little longer to spend in Reykjavik?

If you have just another half a day in Reykjavik, then there’s really only one thing you should so, and that’s explore the incredible Golden Circle, one of Europe’s top road trips. A 226km route which takes in the top three natural attractions in Iceland, and easy to do in half a day, the Golden Circle shares the secrets of the land of fire and ice.

Explore the Golden Circle

Take a Golden Circle Tour

Self Drive Iceland's Golden Circle

  

Þingvellir National Park

    

Geysers of Haukadalur Valley

      

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Make sure you stay behind the guide ropes, as the water is tremendously hot.

If you have 24 hours in Iceland, visit a geyser
Strokkur Geyser | Photo by DennisVDW for Getty Images

Gullfoss Waterfall

       

  

If you have one day in Iceland Golden Circle, visit Gullfoss Waterfall
Gullfoss Waterfall | Photo by Gauti Eiriksson for Getty Images

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